May 6th, 2013
10:23 AM ET
12 months ago

Clarence Thomas: 'The elites' had to approve a black president

(CNN) – Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, the high court's only African American jurist, opened up recently about his thoughts on race and the White House.

Asked if he ever expected to see an African American president in his lifetime, the conservative justice said he always knew "it would have to be a black president who was approved by the elites and the media, because anybody that they didn't agree with, they would take apart."

"And that will happen with virtually - you pick your person, any black person who says something that is not the prescribed things that they expect from a black person will be picked apart," he said in an April interview at Duquesne Law School in Pittsburgh, which aired on C-SPAN.

"You can pick anybody, don't pick me, pick anyone who has decided not to go along with it; there's a price to pay," he continued. "So, I always assumed it would be somebody the media had to agree with."

Thomas didn't mention President Obama specifically in his comments. Asked if he had met the 44th president, Thomas said the two have only met in passing.

"I don't do a lot of Washington and I'm not into politics, so I mean there's not that many occasion," he said, adding that they once shook hands at an inauguration to be polite. "But I've had no in-depth conversation."

Thomas is known for staying largely silent on the bench and has rarely commented on cases during his time in the high court.

"One thing I've demonstrated often in 16 years is you can do this job without asking a single question," he recalled in a speech five years ago.

– CNN's Ashley Killough and Bill Mears contributed to this report.


Filed under: Clarence Thomas • President Obama • Supreme Court
soundoff (597 Responses)
  1. Pushover

    The American people wanted Obama? How about the recent conviction of voter fraud in Indiana to get him in the 2008 primary by complete voter fraud with non-existent voters?

    May 6, 2013 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  2. Daniel

    "Mr. Thomas doesn't say much but when he does he always sounds angry, self-righteous and certainly not very intellectual. How this man ended up on the Supreme Court bench is utterly amazing."

    Justice Thomas was appointed and confirmed because "the elites" approved him. Same way he got into Yale.

    May 6, 2013 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  3. Lohengrin

    Elites like Donald Trump?

    May 6, 2013 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  4. DWB

    @ Manuel J
    I think you meant to say Dr. Ben Carson not West. Using the wrong name is quite telling and totally negates your statement. Make sure to get your facts correct before you post again

    May 6, 2013 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  5. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    Its hard to believe he doesn't like Oral arguments!

    May 6, 2013 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  6. jdun

    Affirmative action does not always work, case in point.

    May 6, 2013 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  7. Jason Shapiro

    "One thing I've demonstrated often in 16 years is you can do this job without asking a single question," he recalled in a speech five years ago. Indeed thomas has proven that he can do that job without even knowing much law – all you have to do is go down the hall and ask tony Scalia how he plans to vote.

    May 6, 2013 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  8. Jim Johnson

    This man is a Justice on the US Supreme Court. He is "an elite"!!!!

    May 6, 2013 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  9. CosmicIrony

    In case Thomas overlooked it, Obama was re-elected with a majority of votes.

    May 6, 2013 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  10. SokrMom

    Pretty funny for Thomas to be talking about "elites" wanting Obama. When the real elites wanted a token, they chose him.

    May 6, 2013 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  11. ST

    @ Manuel J.
    Who is Dr. Benjamin West?
    If you are talking about the African-American neurosurgeon, his second name is Carlson and not West.
    Allen West, that Tea Party crazy of Florida, will never and forever become a Doctor.

    May 6, 2013 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  12. roscoe00

    "Elites and Media" is code for the left. He's talking about the Washington democrat elites. And the left never attacked Obama they attacked Thomas because he was a black man on the right.. Think High Tech lynching. He was dragged through the slime by democrat hatchet men like no other human before or since.

    May 6, 2013 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  13. Erik in Houston, TX

    Thomas is often virulent when he speaks. Regardless of race, he's the most ill-equipped of the bunch. With regard to race, he's nowhere near the fine mind of Thurgood Marshall.

    May 6, 2013 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  14. yogi

    He never asks his wife a single question either, because if he did, the answers of her political involvement would disqualify him to be a fair Supreme Court justice.

    May 6, 2013 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  15. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    DWB

    @ Manuel J
    I think you meant to say Dr. Ben Carson not West. Using the wrong name is quite telling and totally negates your statement
    -------------------------------------------------
    You and ST beat me tothe correction, and your point DWB is quite valid. Getting the names mixed up tells another story altogether doesn't it?

    May 6, 2013 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  16. john

    For a supreme court justice to admit that media and elites are supporting each other is good. But why are there no laws to prevent this sort of thing.

    May 6, 2013 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  17. Pam from Iowa

    I would not call myself an 'elite'.
    As for Thomas, he is the token black person on the SC. Must be holding a grudge.....

    May 6, 2013 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  18. Manny

    Why is Mr. Clarence Thomas now sharing his views , is it to feel relevant after the fact?
    I initially thought Thomas was railroaded during his senate hearing, but a whole lot of Americans were wrong. He is not worthy of the Justice he replaced on the bench. I wish he would resign and just go back to whereevr he came from in Georgia with his wife – Virginia or whatever her name is. Sad Justice.

    May 6, 2013 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  19. fibsernum

    Is he suggesting that voters support candidates because they agree with their positions and beliefs? Even Black candidates? No, it can't be true!

    May 6, 2013 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  20. Zenger Folkman

    Let's see.... Mr. Thomas, the Supreme Court justice, says Mr. Obama was annointed by the "elites"...but Thomas wasn't. Hmmm..., who are the elites? Anyone who holds different political views than Thomas? No wonder the guy is so silent. His utterance "removes all doubt".

    May 6, 2013 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  21. Debbie

    Elites and Media? Koch Bros, Murdock, Fox News, Wall Street Journal? LOL There are "elites" and "media" on both sides. And while a ton of $$ can be spent on media, and while corporations are people, it is still the human citizen that votes. There are more non-elites voters than elite voters. Thomas is full of BS when he says it is elites and media. Thomas is right when he says that any group/person seeks approval of rights/position that has never had that right before it does take a leap of faith by those who vote in elections and in Congress.

    May 6, 2013 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  22. America loves Obamas lies

    Three and a half years can't pass soon enough!

    May 6, 2013 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  23. Profbam

    Mr. Thomas seems to enjoy wallowing in stupidity. In order for someone, regardless of sex or color or religion, to win the Democratic Party nomination, they will have to say those things and have made those votes that are in harmony with the majority of that party. It stands to reason that an African-American who loudly opposes affirmative action, wants to disband civil rights laws, wants to deregulate industries so that they may pollute at will, deregulate banks so that they may steal at will would be rejected by the Democratic party during primaries and warmly received by the Republican party. Thus, his whole statement is just plain stupid. No wonder he doesn't say anything in open court.

    May 6, 2013 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  24. Seriously...

    I can only imagine Herm Cain and Clarence getting together and hanging out in the boys club ( down in the basement)....

    May 6, 2013 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  25. JOE B

    A honest statement, "the elites had to approve it."

    When will the American people realize that the people running this country the political leaders are working on behalf of a very few rich people that control everything? That have hijacked this nation and we "stupidly" have allowed it to happen. When Ron Paul ran for President the rich elites had a field day tearing him apart. It got so bad that various states refused to process his delegated properly. We represent the 99% and we are foolish for allowing this to happen. If you vote for an establishment Republican or Democrat you're part of the problem and not the solution.

    May 6, 2013 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24